Branded Content Strategy, Creative Direction & Production
The year after my creative partner Joe Finkleman and I filmed Carlos Sastre win the Tour de France on a Cervélo bike in 2008, Sastre joined the fledgling Cervélo Test Team. So Joe and I quickly pitched a concept for a behind-the-scenes web series about the team called BEYOND THE PELOTON (BTP), part of a bigger transmedia play that included Cervélo’s Tour de France commercials, product videos, videos for team co-sponsors like Rotor, social media content, and even videos for Cervélo’s VIP Tour de France travel packages.
Cervélo co-founder Gerard Vroomen, who believed R&D about the fastest bikes in the world was more compelling than slick ad agency hype and embraced transparency in a sport plagued by deceit, jumped at the chance to show his company and team make history. And so began three wild years on the road with the Cervélo Test Team (which merged into Team Garmin Cervélo in 2011), as BTP quickly built a cult following in 2009 with underdog stories like Thor Hushovd’s surprising Green Jersey win at the Tour de France and Heinrich Haussler Milan San Remo loss to Mark Cavendish by meer centimeters. BTP and its associated transmedia content helped Cervélo enjoy tremendous growth in a few short years and become the most coveted bike brand in pro-cycling – all while keeping Cervélo’s cutting-edge product development and inspiring startup story front and center.
Around that same time, I wrote, co-produced, directed and edited a Cadbury-sponsored doc about bike empowerment in Ghana called WHEELS OF CHANGE, which aired in Canada on CTV – and followed up by directing more branded content showing how Cadbury’s fair trade initiative improved the lives of Ghanaian cocoa farmers.
Fans were in an uproar when BTP was canceled after three years once Cervélo was acquired by Pon, and a new management team was brought in. The end of an era, but its legacy, and fandom, live on – with one fan at Tesla even proposing we create a similar series following Elon during the company’s rise in the early 2010s. Unfortunately (or fortunately, given Elon’s antics today), Legitmix, the music-tech startup I co-founded just got funding.
In addition to videos featuring Diplo and other tastemaking DJs for Legitmix, I provided content strategy and production – including interactive experiences – for Gallipoli-based ceramics company Kale, New York’s Success Academy charter school, Snoop Dogg’s Merry Jane cannabis content brand while at Jam3. For Makers.to, I served as a dual-role producer and creative on branded content for Detroit-based cannabis startup Common Citizen, Bombardier’s Can-Am BRP brand, Corona’s Sunset concert series, leading Canadian startup incubator MaRS, and for Jam3 and Superly, multiple global campaigns featuring Microsoft user stories, one released in 2023 that was shot in 4 countries, including Ghana, where I worked with old friends from the Cadbury days, and met new ones from the Accra music video scene (with whom I hope to work with on an Afrobeats project I’m developing).
Throughout this branded content journey I’ve also learned a lot about non-fiction transmedia strategy, which I unwittingly pioneered for Cervélo, and now teach at Seneca College. I’m of course aware of the fine between branded documentary-style content being used as propaganda and compelling and authentic educational content that brings value to all stakeholders of a brand, cause, culture or institution – which I’ve outlined in a presentation I put together for Jam3 called The Dos and Don’ts of Branded Content.